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  • Propaganda e información en tiempos de guerra: España y América (1700–1714)
  • Christopher Storrs
Propaganda e información en tiempos de guerra: España y América (1700–1714). By David González Cruz. Madrid: Sílex ediciones, 2009. ISBN 978-84-7737-222-6. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 304. $21.00.

The importance of winning the hearts and minds of friend and foe, combatant and non-combatant, has long been recognised, and has given rise to admirable studies of propaganda in past as well as present conflicts. In the volume under review David González Cruz looks at the propaganda war waged in Spain and Spanish America, and–though less fully–in Spanish Italy during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), when the first Bourbon king of Spain, Philip V, in alliance with his grandfather, Louis XIV of France, fought–largely successfully, although he lost Spain’s non-Iberian European territories–to retain the throne of what was still the largest empire the world had seen–against a coalition, comprising England/Britain, the Dutch Republic, the Emperor and various lesser states which sought to install as king ‘Charles III’, the emperor’s younger son (and future Emperor Charles VI). In an almost encyclopedic analysis, González Cruz covers a wide range of types of propaganda. He discusses print, including pictures of various sorts, some of which are reproduced, the positive grant of favours and pardons, and–more negatively–the use of penalties such as dismissal, confiscation of property, imprisonment and execution. The author also discusses the ideas, and those involved in both the production and dissemination of propaganda, including not least the clergy: the importance of the religious issue cannot be underestimated, the presence of the Protestant troops of his allies weakening the appeal in Catholic Spain of Philip V’s Austrian rival. Not entirely surprisingly either, the propagandists exploited the long-running tensions between Castile and Aragon (i.e. Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia). Besides discussing printed propaganda, David González Cruz also gets to grips with the issue of control of the press, which was an integral part of the struggle to counter enemy propaganda. Among the many strengths of the work is, as has already been indicated, its geographical breadth. In addition, González Cruz makes very effective use not just of Spanish sources but also of materials found in the French and Vatican archives, papal nuncios often [End Page 1322] sending back to Rome examples of circulating printed propaganda. Drawing on the papal archives, the author makes what might be thought a polemical point: he asserts Philip V’s personal responsibility for the destruction of the town of Jativa (in Valencia) in 1707 against a historiographical tradition which derives in part from the pro-Bourbon contemporary chronicler of the war, the marqués de San Felipe. Another of the book’s strengths is its discussion of the way both sides used espionage. Unfortunately, there is no conclusion drawing together the book’s various strands. This might also have been the occasion to discuss the effectiveness of the propaganda effort, and its impact, the absence of which is probably the weakest aspect of the study. David González Cruz does not entirely avoid this aspect of his subject, noting that commanders and leaders were aware of the impact on opinion of–for example–the misconduct of ill-disciplined troops. But the issue–surely the most elusive aspect of wartime propaganda, past and present–needed a fuller, more focused discussion than González Cruz gives it. Having said that, this is an impressive study of an important aspect of one of early modern Europe’s most important conflicts, identifying elements of propaganda and approaches to their analysis which might usefully be applied to other, including later, wars.

Christopher Storrs
University of Dundee
Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom